An outspoken advocate

February 01, 2001 |

Often, the presence of an industry leader goes unnoticed until that individual is gone. Such was certainly not the case for Milton F. Lunch, an outspoken advocate of qualifications-based selection, former general counsel of the National Society for Professional Engineers and 15-year legal columnist for Building Design & Construction.

Quite to the contrary, this perceptive legal thinker and unflagging friend of the design and construction professions touched many lives in many places. His mastery of the complex and quickly changing arena of professional liability and related case law made him a "first call" for many firm principals and industry groups. The Liability Crisis, which he authored in 1985, was a landmark treatise that shaped today's landscape of risk management in the architecture, engineering and construction fields.

When legislative and judicial action threatened designers, Lunch was on the case. For example, an attack by the U.S. Department of Justice on the NSPE's code of ethics-which prohibited competitive bidding for engineering services-ignited his leadership in fighting the challenge.

"Although NSPE lost at the U.S. Supreme Court, the case was instrumental in recognizing engineering as a 'learned profession' and in establishing the rights of professionals to self-regulation," notes Frank Musica of the Victor O. Schinnerer Co., a liability underwriter in Chevy Chase, Md.

Lunch also pioneered the development of standard documents, says Musica, but his crowning achievement was the 1972 enactment of the federal "Brooks Act," which determined how federal agencies procure A/E services. "His greatest contribution.was his outspoken advocacy of qualifications-based selection procedures," he says.

And Lunch-whom our staff knew as Milt-remained active until slowed by failing health in the last few months of his life. Until his death in early January at age 83, he was studying legal decisions and delivering thoughtful analyses in our magazine and as editor-in-chief of A/E Legal Newsletter.

From the start of Milt's legal career in 1946 to his high-profile successes at its heights, he was a pivotal player in determining how designers, builders and owners work together. Milt was the very embodiment of our magazine's mission, and his timely and insightful columns were widely read and discussed.

Inspired by his words, many readers sent legal questions to Milt. Upon hearing of his retirement from our column in January-for which he wrote a half-century synopsis of A/E legal issues-a flood of well-wishing correspondence came in, much of it like this from Gary Tosel of Ellerbe Becket:

"I wish to thank Mr. Lunch for all of the information in Legal Trends over the years. I have always watched for his column to keep me informed ... as to what our industry should be aware of regarding the law."

The editors are also thankful for having known Milt. We lament the passing of this knowledgeable and great friend, and celebrate his contribution to our world.

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